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Ripon enjoys winds of change

no captionSUN-STAR PHOTO BY LISA JAMES
#18 Nina Arrigale of Hilmar
vs Ripon
May 14th, 200
no captionSUN-STAR PHOTO BY LISA JAMES #18 Nina Arrigale of Hilmar vs Ripon May 14th, 200 Merced Sun-Star

HILMAR -- Louie Bettencourt knew he needed to change things up.

His Hilmar girls soccer team was dominating possession with the wind at its back in the first half of Thursday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinal with Ripon, but squandering its opportunities.

Midfield conductor Lindsey Mendes couldn't go because of a sprained ankle and her presence was badly missed as the Hilmar middle disappeared.

Bettencourt turned to the only playmaker he had left on the bench.

His daughter, Haylee.

Just four days before she was set to have surgery to repair a torn ACL in her left knee, a heavily-braced Haylee Bettencourt entered the game with 15 minutes to play in the opening half.

"My dad had been asking me all week if I could go," Haylee said. "I tweaked it a bit jumping for a ball in practice, so I didn't know.

"I wasn't going to move around a lot. My job was just to distribute the ball and try to make something happen."

Unfortunately for Hilmar, the ploy didn't work.

Ripon scored a pair of second half goals and Jose Bobadilla and his squad exacted two year's worth of revenge with a 2-0 victory.

They'll face Central Catholic in Saturday's title game at Stockton Lincoln High School.

"I was really proud of the way the girls played," Bettencourt said. "I thought Ripon was going to control the ball a lot more and we really came out and controlled things in the first half.

"We didn't take advantage of the wind, though. I was trying to get the girls to run on when the ball bounced, but they just stood and watched."

Hilmar (16-6-6) didn't appear to learn anything from Tuesday's victory over Sutter Creek Amador, when the playing conditions were almost identical.

Ripon's defense was tentative and uncertain as the wind carried the ball towards its net, but Hilmar's attack lacked aggression.

Despite scoring a goal from almost midfield just two days earlier, Hilmar didn't let wind-aided shots fly.

Bettencourt's squad took only two shots in the first half and put none on net.

After weathering the opening 40 minutes, Bobadilla liked his team's position heading into the second half.

"We knew if we could keep it 0-0 at the half that they'd be in trouble once we got the wind," Bobadilla said. "It would be very difficult for them to play the ball out of their backfield."

Ripon (23-1-1) needed just three minutes to cash in on the wind.

The Hilmar defense allowed a cornerkick to bounce in the box and an unmarked Renae McFadden headed the loose ball into the net.

Meredith Perkins made it 2-0 in 54th minute when she was sprung free with a through ball.

Hilmar goalkeeper Riley Fielder got a piece of the shot, but not enough to keep it from slowly trickling across the net.

"The defense played great, like they always do," said Fielder, whose six saves kept Hilmar in it. "We just made a few mistakes and Ripon made us pay for them."

Hilmar's last chance came in the form of a penalty kick in the 71st minute, but Alicia Barros' strike sailed over the crossbar.

Ripon goalkeeper Morgan Torres-Unger made three saves to earn the shutout.

"Our only goal is to win it all," said Bobadilla. "But because of all of the history between these two teams, this win was a big step for us."

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